“Independent reviewing officers are not challenging enough, says Ofsted”

By Neil Puffett

| 07 June 2013

Officers employed by local authorities to review care plans are failing to make enough of a difference for looked-after children, a damning report has found.

The report by Ofsted found that local authority independent reviewing officers (IROs), who are responsible for reviewing the cases of children in care, have not acted with sufficient speed to take on additional responsibilities.

Since April 2011, IROs have been responsible for monitoring children’s care plans on an ongoing basis in addition to chairing statutory reviews.

But inspectors found that IROs did not always adequately challenge drift and delay in individual plans for children.

In addition, children’s views were not always taken into full account.

Concerns were also raised that the majority of IROs had a workload that exceeded the level recommended by statutory guidance.

A total of 111 cases across 10 local authorities were used as the basis for the report.

It calls for local authorities to make sure IROs have the necessary skills, training, knowledge and time to undertake all elements of their role effectively.

It also calls on them to seek regular feedback from children, young people, families, carers and professionals about the difference IROs make to the lives of children they work with.

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), said improved oversight of care plans is required.

“This report shows how all local authority IRO services need to scale up to the level of the very best,” he said.

“The best provide a powerful service to children looked after, especially when the resources and placements needed for effective care plans are often hard to find and hard to sustain.

 “We will step up our liaison work with IROs to support them in their strategic development within local authorities and collaborate effectively on behalf of individual children who need both of us, as well as their local authority social worker.”